The leaders of the Orthodox church in Ukraine that was affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church have adopted measures declaring the church’s full independence and criticizing the Moscow church’s leader for his support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The council of the Moscow-affiliated body, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, said on Friday it “condemns the war as a violation of God’s commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ … and expresses disagreement with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia regarding the war in Ukraine.”
Archbishop Kliment told the Associated Press the charter adopted on Friday implements rights to sovereign and independent management that was gained by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in 1991 but was not implemented by all churches in the country.
Questions remain whether this decision is mostly symbolic or whether it might result in true independence or autocephaly.
Orthodox Christianity, the largest religious denomination in Ukraine, is divided between churches that had been loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate and those under a separate ecclesiastical body.
The Moscow-connected body has until now formally pledged allegiance to Russian Patriarch Kirill, who has been vocal in supporting Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine.
Dubbed the “Tobacco Metropolitan” for his alleged profiteering off of duty-free cigarettes in the 1990s, Patriarch Kirill has been under mounting pressure from religious leaders over his stance.
He has maintained his pro-war stance, blaming the invasion on “gay parades” and making unproven claims that Ukrainians have been “exterminating” Russian civilians in the Donbas.
In recent weeks, hundreds of Ukrainian Orthodox priests signed an open letter calling for Kirill to face a religious tribunal over the war.
Kirill said he understood the decision by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and that “spirits of malice” would not divide Orthodox believers in Ukraine and Russia.